Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bean bags & stuffed elephants...

[Happy 4th Birthday, sweet Bailey-dog xo]

"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened." - Anatole France

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Maid by Kimberly Cutter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

She won't submit. That's why she must be killed. Won't submit to the Church, won't let them judge her revelations, won't accept the Church as her authority, won't abide by its rules. "God must first be served," she said, and this was the heart of it, the thing that drove them mad. The audacity. The gall. If a filthy peasant girl can talk to God, can receive divine wisdom, who needs the Church? - The Maid by Kimberly Cutter

In 15th Century France, during the 100 years war, a peasant girl from Lorraine, following instructions from God, leads the French army to win a series of significant battles against the English. Later betrayed by her King, she falls into the hands of the English and is made to stand trial for witchcraft, of which she is found guilty and sentenced to death.

Kimberly Cutter's novel The Maid tells the life story of this amazing peasant girl from Lorraine, who went on to crown a king and become the legend that is Saint Joan of Arc (Jehanne D'Arc).

I enjoyed this novel immensely, even though I could not relate to Jehanne at all: It is difficult to understand her devotion, motivation and determination. But Jehanne is not dislikable, it's simply that she is unrelatable - She who taught herself to fight and then went into battle, over and over again, sword at the ready, standard held high, knowing that she could and would eventually die, all for the will of God. How can anyone possibly relate to that?

The Maid is filled with fascinating historic detail, particularly of Jehanne's battles, and it is clear that Cutter has researched Jehanne's life and achievements extensively in order to complete this novel. Even those parts of the story where Cutter has taken artistic licence connect effortlessly with the facts, making the story as a whole seem plausible and believable.

Recommended to fans of historical fiction, particularly medieval, and anyone who enjoys a good story but doesn't mind descriptions of war.

**Received as an ARC through NetGalley. Many thanks to the author and the publisher for allowing me to read and review this novel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

About the House: Adapt & Evolve.

[Dining Room]

I apologise that these pictures aren't of the highest quality, but I really wanted to show you all our hard work: The "real" camera got misplaced amongst the chaos of renovations, so I had to use my iPhone to document the improvements we are making to our house. iPhones don't take terrible pictures, but I find the camera in mine is quite sensitive to light changes, so often they come out with a lot of shadow. At the same time I find these pictures quite indicative of the mess that our house is in at the moment!

Earlier this month we attended a public meeting about prospective heritage listings in our little town:  It's a somewhat complicated process to explain as it has a lot to do with local government planning and State legislation (yawn!), but in a nutshell the local Council was looking to list the old part of town as a heritage area, and within that area considered listing 68 residential properties individually as local heritage buildings. This was to be done without consultation of property owners.

[Dining Room & Second Bedroom]

Our house is over 100 years old with original architraves, windows, floors etc. Its design features are distinctive of the era in which it was built, and for many years the building was used by the Country Women's Association (CWA). We are also in the proposed local heritage area, and as such were concerned that our property would be one of those buildings on the list for heritage. 

Any building listed as local heritage needs planning permission from Council for all work - that includes both internal and external improvements, aside from painting. As we have not yet finished renovating we were worried that Council would prevent us from continuing with the plans we have for our home.

Last week Council had their monthly ordinary meeting, and in response to public concern decided that the owners of proposed heritage properties must be consulted before anything is listed as local heritage. We will have to continue to wait and see if our home is one of those properties.

[Entrance Hall]

I love that our house is old and we want to preserve it as much as is possible, but at the same time be allowed to make it a workable living space for us. When we purchased our house we didn't just buy a "first home", we purchased what we hope will be our only home. I believe that cultural heritage should be recognised and protected, but still allow buildings to evolve and adapt to changing conditions, because that is what makes them survive in the long term.

In light of all this, it probably comes as no surprise that we are and will continue to be very, very busy with renovations over the coming months. The house is very much a construction site right now, but we're working through it, because it is always worth it in the end.
[Living Room...& Bailey-dog, working hard!]

With the expertise of SJ's dad and the help of his brother, in a single weekend we were able to put up new ceilings in two rooms, and cornice three rooms plus the entrance hall. Tomorrow night the ceiling and cornice in the back hall will be finished, and SJ is taking next week off work to get as much plastering, sanding and general fixing done as possible.

The sooner we can paint the sooner life can get back to normal...
And the sooner we can start planning the next stage of improvements.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In the Garden: Winter Planting

 Standard Rose (White)

Bush Rose (Pink & Yellow)


Apricot (Trevatt)

It's so good to be able to get out into the garden and plant things, even in the middle of winter!

SJ and I busied ourselves over the long weekend with planting some bareroot roses and fruit trees.

It is our first attempt at growing these, so we have started small: Just two rose bushes to accompany the standard rose we moved from the front yard to the back, along with a peacherine and apricot tree, both of which do not require a pollinator. If we have success (meaning, if they don't die) we will plant more next winter.

Now I really cannot wait for spring, when the garden will burst with colour, and I can really get my hands dirty just sowing, planting, and growing...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The (mis)adventures of Bailey-dog.

Our Bailey is the sweetest dog, but he has some interesting mannerisms.

He doesn't like to have wet feet.
He won't eat jelly or honey.
Everytime we have visitors he has to bring them something: A toy, a piece of clothing, his blanket, a pillow...
He gets most confused when we move or change things. He'll stare and cautiously sniff around until he's convinced himself that it presents no threat to him and his otherwise stress-free existence.

Not much else phases him, though. I'll happily wager that he is the most worry-free pet on the planet.

Not even being inadvertently locked in a bedroom for over an hour bothers him. There is no whining, no barking, no scratching...

He simply remains calm and waits.

And waits.

And then waits some more, until eventually someone notices he's missing.

Then we're all in a tither searching for him, calling his name over and over again, opening doors to every room in the house, until...

We find him.
In the spare bedroom.
Standing behind the door, tail wagging, with the biggest grin on his face that says, "I knew you'd come for me!"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Frog Cakes (nom nom nom)...

These are Frog Cakes.
They're somewhat of a South Australian icon and I want one.

I haven't had a Frog Cake since we left Adelaide over three years ago. I haven't seen them here, so I'm unsure as to whether I can get them locally, or if they are so much Adelaidean that you can only get them in the city.

Some say they are too sweet, others that they are too bland, but I think the Frog Cake is the perfect treat: Not too big, with a fresh spongey centre and a splash of jam, a dollop of cream and covered in icing (green tastes best, of course).

So perfect, in fact, that on a boring winter's day at work they are all I can think about...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Easy (and very tasty) homemade Vegetarian pizza.

To make the base you will need:
1 teaspoon dried yeast
1/4 teaspoon caster sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 + 1/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl. Set aside in a warm spot until bubbles appear.
2. Place the flour and the salt in a separate bowl and make a well in the centre.
3. Add the yeast mixture and stir until combined and it comes together in a dough.
4. Cover with a clean tea towel or a piece of cling-wrap sprayed with oil, and sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size.
5. Remove dough from bowl and on a lightly floured surface kneed and press dough out into desired size and shape using fingers and palm.
6. Fold edges in for a thicker crust.

For the topping I used:
Tomato paste mixed with 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic + basil
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1/2 small green capsicum, sliced
1 flat mushrooms, sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Corn kernals
Baby spinach leaves
Grated mozarella cheese (non-animal rennet)
Grated parmesan cheese (non-animal rennet)
Feta cheese (non-animal rennet)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

1. Cover pizza base with desired amount of tomato paste, and sprinkle with a little mozarella and parmesan cheese.
2. Place onion, capsicum, mushroom, tomatoes, corn kernals and spinach leaves onto pizza in desired quantity.
3. Cover with a generous amount of mozarella cheese and bake in oven at 180*C for approximately 15 minutes or until base is cooked through.
4. Remove from oven and crumble feta cheese over the top,
5. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

If you knew what your meat went through, would you still be able to eat it?

Perhaps you saw the 4-Corners expose on Australian live export to Indonesia on Monday night, perhaps you did not, and although I wouldn't normally make politically-orientated posts on my blog, when it comes to animal welfare I will make an exception. 

Animal welfare is a topic that I have felt very strongly about for a long time. In 2002 I made the decision to become vegetarian, and two years ago I wrote a post here on my blog about why I feel so strongly about vegetarianism. Having seen first-hand how some so-called "farmers" treat their livestock, I find the whole idea of animal trade cruel.
If you want to know more about Australia's live exports, and in turn the 4-Corners expose, you can do so here. There is also the option of sending your local Member of Parliament a letter demanding the immediate ban of all live exports. If you are outside Australia, perhaps it is time to consider your own country's policy on live exports? You could always send your local politican a letter requesting the same if you're not happy with the standards.

I believe the way that we, as humans, treat animals is a reflection of our true selves. It's about time that we took action against the manner in which animals are bred, modified, force-fed, cage-kept, poorly treated and killed in mass-slaughter in order to meet our excessive, consumerist demands. No more excuses: It's just plain wrong and it makes us all bad people.

"If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty." - Sir Paul McCartney